Monday, February 3, 2014

Cabin Fever? Get Out and Find February

I've been on a little vacation and away from my blog, but I know there are all kinds of February things happening that I need to tell you about before it's too late. February be a short month, but it has Groundhog Day, Valentine's Day, Presidents Day, African-American History Month, and this year the Olympics. That's a lot to squeeze into 28 days. Especially when you consider these entertainment options:

Lost Lake, the new David Auburn play getting a try-out under the auspices of the Sullivan Project, opens February 5 at the University of Illinois Krannert Center in Urbana. Tony Award-winning director Daniel Sullivan will be at the helm of this new work from Auburn, the playwright behind Proof, a Chicago-based play about a math genius and a supposedly unsolvable problem that won Auburn the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. This time, Auburn is writing about a woman named Veronica (Opal Alladin) who is looking for an escape from the city by way of a vacation home in the middle of nowhere. But when she comes into contact with Hogan (Jake Weber), the man who owns the place, she finds that her idea of escape may be more complicated than she envisioned. Lost Lake begins its short run of performances on the 5th, but last time I looked, that one was sold out. It continues on the 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th at 7:30 pm, with 2 pm matinees also on the 8th and 9th. For ticket information, click here.

Champaign's Art Theater Co-op is offering Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell and their furry friend in wonderful Groundhog Day on February 5 at 10 pm. If you don't own a copy on DVD -- or even if you do, but you want to revisit Groundhog Day on the big screen -- it's definitely worth a look at the Art in downtown Champaign. They're also offering Bogie and Bergman in Casablanca, one of the most romantic films of all time, as a Valentine's Day treat, along with The Princess Bride, that wry and wonderful fairytale from director Rob Reiner, with a screenplay from William Goldman based on his book. And that is some fine Valentine's fare. Check with the Art for showtimes.

On television, the Winter Olympics begin on the 7th on NBC, the same night Jay Leno bids goodbye (or perhaps au revoir) to The Tonight Show. Jimmy Fallon starts his Tonight Show on the 17th, Seth Myers takes up the reins of Late Night on the 24th, and The Walking Dead (9), House of Cards (14), The Amazing Race (23), The Voice (24) and Scandal (27) all come back. The numbers in parentheses are the dates you can expect to find them. Note also that Downton Abbey finishes up its season on the 23rd. Phew. Better fire up the DVR now.

On stage, Illinois Wesleyan welcomes 2014 with Caridad Svich's Twelve Ophelias (a play with broken songs), directed by Assistant Professor Dani Snyder-Young, with Sarah Menke as the No. 1 Ophelia. 12 Ophelias will be performed at McPherson Theatre from February 11 to 16, showcasing Svich's unique take on Hamlet, where the central Ophelia is reborn from her drowning pool into a mysterious pseudo-Appalachian world with rock 'n' roll, a Rude Boy who just may be Hamlet and a woman named Gertrude who runs a brothel. Svich's "mirrored world of word-scraps and cold sex" definitely represents a refocused and unexpected way to look at Shakespeare.

Heartland Theatre has performed the work of playwright Jon Robin Baitz very nicely in the past, so Baitz's newest piece, Other Desert Cities, should be a perfect fit. This one looks at the cracks forming under the foundation of a wealthy family in Palm Springs, California. The Wyeths have ties to the entertainment world as well as politics, since patriarch Lyman was a movie star back in the day, before he got an ambassadorship courtesy of his pal Ronald Reagan. Lyman and Polly had three children: wild child Henry, fragile daughter Brooke and easy-going Tripp. Henry is gone, Tripp is happily working on a TV judge show, and Brooke... Well, Brooke has come home with a memoir she's written, a tell-all that may just tear the family apart. Sandra Zielinski directs Other Desert Cities with a cast that includes Joe Penrod and Connie de Veer as Lyman and Polly, Carol Scott as Polly's free-spirited sister Silda, Joey Banks as Tripp, and Jessie Swiech as Brooke. The show opens February 20 with a special pay-what-you-can preview, followed by performances through March 9. Click here for reservation information.

Illinois State University opens its winter theater season with Diana Son's Stop Kiss, opening February 20 at Westhoff Theatre, and the Benjamin Britten/Peter Pears opera version of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, opening February 21 in ISU's Center for the Performing Arts.

Stop Kiss, which involves a couple violently assaulted when they share a kiss on the street, was first performed at New York's Public Theatre in 1998. Its premiere cast included Sandra Oh (Grey's Anatomy) and Jessica Hecht (Breaking Bad, Friends) as Sara and Callie, the couple at the center of the storm. Leah Cassella directs Stop Kiss for ISU, with Nina Ganet and Bethany Hart as Callie and Sara, Eddie Curley as Callie's friend George, Jimmy Keating as Sara's ex-boyfriend Peter, Matt Hallahan as the detective assigned to the case, Angie Aiello as a witness, and Lauren Partch as a nurse who tries to help Sara when she is hospitalized.

A Midsummer Night's Dream as interpreted by composer Benjamin Britten couldn't be more different, taking audiences into a whirl of fairies, amateur actors and mismatched lovers inside the Athenian forest. ISU has been celebrating Britten's centenary since last October, and this production, directed by ISU Professor Paul Dennhardt, serves as another piece of the celebration. Britten's musical styles separate the fairies and their magical world from the simple folk (the Mechanicals) and the romantically inclined lovers, with more focus on the fairies than in Shakespeare's original. The part of Oberon, the King of the Fairies, was written for a countertenor, an unusual occurrence in opera. For ISU, Landon Westerfield will sing Oberon, with Kristin Moroni as his queen Tytania and Colin Lawrence as his impish servant Puck. Michael Guttierez and Adriana Ladage will play Theseus and Hippolyta, whose royal wedding brings the players together, while Audra Ferguson, Robbie Holden, Sidney Megeff and John Ramseyer form the quartet of young lovers. As Bottom, Josh Ramseyer leads the Mechanicals, joined by Eric Rehm, Lucas Tuazon, Ben Wright and Jeff Wright. Add a company of 30+ fairies, and you have the world of this Midsummer. I haven't seen a poster for it yet, so I will offer a pretty image from the Lyric Opera of Chicago's recent production (up there at the top of this paragraph).

Click here for more information on ISU's winter season.

The Illinois Symphony Orchestra will join with performers from the Illinois Shakespeare Festival to create "Shimmering Shakespeare" on Friday, February 21 at the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts and on Saturday, February 22 at Springfield's Sangamon Auditorium. Actors from the Illinois Shakespeare Festival will perform short scenes between movements of Prokofiev's opera Romeo and Juliet. The evening will also feature Silk Road Ensemble percussionist Joseph Gramley performing Chen Yi's Percussion Concerto. Tickets for the Bloomington performance can be purchased at the BCPA box office at 309-434-2777, while tickets for the Springfield performance are available at the Sangamon Auditorium at 217-206-6160. For more information, you can also visit the Illinois Symphony Orchestra online at

Eureka College Theatre did Aristophanes' The Birds a few years ago, so it's only fitting they would take on The Frogs, also by Aristophanes. Holly Rocke directs this classical Greek comedy updated for Eureka with puppets. Performances begin February 25 and finish up March 1. Please note that this is Aristophanes, not the Stephen Sondheim musical (see image at left) set in a swimming pool. For Aristophanes, it was Euripides battling Aeschylus for Best Poet honors. For Sondheim and Shrevelove, it's Shaw vs. Shakespeare. Plus, of course, music. And a pool. Eureka will be going Greek with this one.

And that's just a sampling of February's many options. With the Oscars coming March 2, you will also want to take in a few movies here and there. If you have time!

1 comment:

  1. Wow. Must make reservations! (I did see The Frogs in a pool version of The Frogs--Pegasus Players at Truman College swimming pool in Chicago!)